Wednesday, February 20, 2013
The Battle Within: How The US Army is Combating the Inefficiencies of its Older Legacy Systems
While overall growth in IT spending is increasing in sectors such as the US retail industry ("JC Penny Spends to Get Ahead on Mobile Shoppers, Other Trends", WSJ), it is also experiencing high demand in the public sector as well. The US Army has doubled its IT expenditures in the last 10 years (currently up to $80 Billion dollars) and has a huge need especially for Enterprise Resource Systems to manage its vast logistical network. In fact, the Army is currently attempting to complete installation on the largest ERP system in the world, called the General Fund Enterprise Business System (GFEBS). The Army processes over 1 million transactions every day, spread throughout its global network of 27 bases in 71 countries.
Especially daunting to the Army logistics network is the $28 billion dollars of equipment currently residing in Afghanistan, including 34,000 soldiers, 40,00 vehicles and 600,000 pieces of weaponry and support infrastructure. Current policy dictates that the US will fully withdraw from Afghanistan by Dec 2014, which gives a time frame of 22 months for this monumental move. Unfortunately, it is still unknown how reliant the Army's IT infrastructure will be when helping to coordinate its logistics in an efficient manner. Currently, over $20 billion IT dollars are wasted every year due to unfinished or failed projects. As discussed in Cynthia Rettig's article "The Trouble with Enterprise Software", IT systems are often poorly executed and overly complex. This goes also for the largest system in the world, where the DOD Investigator General recently revealed that projects had short-term milestones but lacked long term planning, as well as a lack of planning for retiring older disparate legacy systems. These issues are surprisingly typical for the private sector according to Rettig, and apparently still present even in rigid and demanding organizations such as the military. The army may be on the right track with its development of a comprehensive ERP system using a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), however it still seems to be suffering the issues of any major private sector corporation. Even an organization as powerful as the Army may find itself held hostage by its reliance on older legacy systems.